Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Read This If You're Thinking About Handling Your Ohio Auto Accident Claim By Yourself

This is what YOUR OWN auto insurance company can do to you after you're in a crash that's not your fault. Client's son, a passenger in a car, is seriously injured in a crash due to a friend/driver's negligence. Both the driver and the son's family have the same insurance company.

As a passenger in the friend's vehicle, the boy is eligible for medical payments coverage of $10,000, the limits of the driver's medical payments coverage. The insurance company pays the $10,000 limits on the first volley of bills. The boy's bills, however, greatly exceed $10,000.

The boy's family also had $5,000 in medical payments coverage on their family auto policy with the same company, meaning that there was an additional $5,000 immediately available to pay for additional bills. Problem: the insurance company never notified the family of the availability of this additional coverage under their own policy.

The insurance company holds on to the claim for over 1 year. No offer of settlement is made, despite promising to "work with" the family on resolving the claim. In the meantime, medical bills are pouring in, and, eventually, the family is turned over to numerous collection agencies, who are hounding the family for payment.

After all the frustration and delay, they hire me, and my first question to them is: "Were you even told by your insurance company that you were eligible for an additional $5,000 in coverage to pay some of these additional bills?" "Nobody told us any of that" is the response.

I immediately fire off a letter to the insurance company asking if they notified the family of the additional coverage, and it is admitted that not only was the coverage available, but it should have been offered. The ball was dropped, pure and simple.

Or was it? This is what can happen when folks with no experience in the nuances of insurance coverage or handling their own injury claim are left to deal with an insurance company or an adjuster with hundreds of claims. Perhaps this additional coverage simply got overlooked. But here's the ultimate problem: insurance companies often view the claims process as an adversarial relationship, even with their own insureds. It is not a relationship that lends itself to them asking questions like: "How can we help this family get through this" or "How can we be fair to them?"

More likely than not, their sole question is: "How can we get rid of this claim with paying the least amount possible?" That does not make them evil; it's their business plan. And it works. Just ask yourself: how many insurance companies went belly up in the worst economic meltdown since The Depression? When suspicion and saving money on a claim are motivating factors, and when nobody is truly looking out for the injured person's best interests, things like failing to notify insureds of additional coverage(THAT THEY PAID FOR) happen. And in this case, it was inexcuseable.

If the family was properly informed of this coverage over a year ago, many of these straggler bills would have been paid, with no bad implications for their credit rating. The take away lesson here is that if you're going to "go it alone" with an insurance company, you do it at your peril...

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